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Sunday, 26 February 2012 10:24

Know Why Stress Ages You So Fast!

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For a good percentage of the working urban population, getting by a day without stumbling into plan deviations offers a fair degree of challenge. Increasingly, our lives demand being keyed into the on-goings of our home, job and social life – all of which require fair amount of planning for smooth flow. However, all the planning and working to get the logistics right with the kids, domestic servant, spouse, client, boss and friends can be overwhelming and stressful!

Research now comes in from University of California at San Francisco that continued stress contributes directly to accelerated aging apart from giving rise to other stress-related conditions such as cardiovascular diseases and cancer.

The researchers took a random sample of 50 women who were either in-charge of care-giving for relatives suffering from dementia or were involved with frequent public speaking, teaching and solving math problems showed signs of aging sped up at the cellular level. The scientists were able to calculate the approximate cellular age by examining the telomeres of the person. A telomere is located at either ends of a chromosome. It’s basic function is to protect the chromosome from deterioration or fusion after colliding into the next chromosome. Over a period of time, telomeres shorten due to repeated cell division and signal the end of a cell. A short telomere index of a cell denotes cell aging or deterioration. (1)

According to the lead investigatior and the author of the study, Elissa Epel, PhD, an associate professor in the UCSF Department of Psychiatry, “We are getting closer to understanding how chronic stress translates into the present moment. As stress researchers, we try to examine the psychological process of how people respond to a stressful event and how that impacts their neurobiology and cellular health. And we're making some strides in that.” (2)

The findings of the study which is due to be published in the May issue of the medical journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity also made observations that in general caregivers anticipated more stress than those who were did not offer care-giving services when they were asked to solve math problems or do public speaking. Even in the short duration, this anticipation of stress or an activity which they disliked or perceived as threat shortened their telomeres when they were assessed.

It was on the basis of this finding that the researches proposed that those who are exposed to moderate to high levels of stress on a daily basis in the long-term are likely to have accelerated cellular aging. The same would stand true for those who are chronically stressed due to other factors such as those suffering from Generalised Anxiety Disorder etc. 

Though the study is only at a preliminary stage and more research needs to be done with larger population sets inclusive of ethnic groups, ages, gender and socio-economic strata, they are indicative of the damage stress does in our daily lives. As per Aoife O'Donovan, PhD, and Branco Weiss Fellow at UCSF, “The major forms of stress in your life may influence how your respond to more minor forms of stress, such as losing your keys, getting stuck in traffic or leading a meeting at work. Our goal is to gain better understanding of how psychological stress promotes biological aging so that we can design targeted interventions that reduce risk for disease in stressed individuals. We now have preliminary evidence that higher anticipatory threat perception may be one such mechanism.”


  1. Anticipation of Stressful Situations Accelerates Cellular Aging; Science Daily News; February 2012;
  2. Anticipation of Stressful Situations Accelerates Cellular Aging; UCSF News Center; February 2012;

Technical report of the study may be accessed at:

  1. Stress appraisals and cellular aging: A key role for anticipatory threat in the relationship between psychological stress and telomere length; Science Direct – SciVerse via Elsevier; February 2012;


Mamta is a published author of the books Migraines For The Informed Woman (Rupa & Co.), Mentor Your Mind (Sterling Publishers) and the upcoming Women’s Complete Fitness Guide (Hay House). She is also a popular freelance writer for several international magazines. She is a certified Fitness Instructor, Personal Trainer & Sports and an NCFE-certified Holistic Health Therapist. Besides, Mamta lead writes for many popular fitness sites and holds Expert Author status in many well-received health sites. Mamta runs her own popular blog on migraines in women.

Read 3885 times Last modified on Sunday, 26 February 2012 10:38

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